The Baseball Exchange

My Favorite Stats, including Win Shares vs. WPA by red

Ok, so maybe I am a bit of the “Bill James II” variety of bloggers. Not ashamed of it either. It amazes me how much people still put so much value on batting average, win-loss records, hustle, team chemistry, or the ability to “concetrate”. But that’s a whole different story, I’d like to present you with some of the best statistics ever invented:

1. Win Shares – A Bill James invention, just the flat-out best way of rating a player. VORP and WARP are also convenient, but Win Shares evaluates every aspect of the game, including fielding, while VORP and WARP focus on just batting or pitching. There have been some critics of it, but overall it works as a solid, reliable way to rate an overall production of players.

2. WPA (Wins Probability Added) – Sort of an alternate form to win shares, (though it does no include fielding) in which, in layman terms, rewards “clutch” hits more. Trying to find an example of this, wikipedia helps me out:

Win Shares would give the same amount of credit to a player if he hit a lead-off solo home run that turned out to be decisive as if he hit a walk-off solo home run; WPA, however, would give vastly more credit to the player who hit the walk-off homer.

In other words, WPA rates who’s the “most valuable” player, while Win Shares rates the “best” players. So, we could take this and figure out who’s “most valuable” to their team (i.e. the MVP) and which pitcher is just plain best.

Top 10 AL Leaders in WPA, as of 9/20/07:

Alex Rodriguez: 6.49

Magglio Ordonez: 5.99

Vladamir Guerrero: 5.96

J.J. Putz: 5.52

Rafale Betancourt: 4.89

Fausto Carmona: 4.14

David Ortiz: 3.97

Erik Bedard: 3.87

Carl Crawford: 3.50

C.C. Sabathia/Jonathan Papelbon: 3.49

Given WPA’s nature, it tends to like relievers a lot, given that they are often the deciding factor in games. Now, AL Leaders in Win Shares:

Alex Rodriguez: 35

Magglio Ordonez: 34

Ichiro Suzuki: 31

Victor Martinez: 30

Vladimir Guerrero: 29

Grady Sizemore: 28

Carlos Pena: 27

Granderson/Ortiz: 25

Posada/Hunter: 24

Upton/Lowell/Cabrera: 23

The first pitcher pitcher to come in is C.C. Sabathia, in a five way tie with 22 win shares, then Carmona with 21. Interesting group here. A-Rod, not surprisingly, comes in first, but the difference between A-Rod and Mags is much larger in WPA than Win Shares. Also, Ichiro, who comes third in win shares, has a WPA of only 1.98, far below pretty much everyone else on the top win shares list. My guess is that when he makes deciding plays in a game, they’re more likely to be a one RBI single with runners on first and third rather than a three-run homer from most of the other guys on the list. Win Shares also tends to give more shares to batters, as you can easily see. You can also easily see that A-Rod’s the MVP, no competition. Now, let’s move on over to the top AL pitchers. I’ll start with Win Shares, since Cy Young isn’t so much as most valuable pitcher, but just flat-out best.

C.C. Sabathia: 22

Fausto Carmona: 21

Erik Bedard/John Lackey:19

Beckett/Haren/Santana: 18

Putz/Vazquez/Escobar/Beuurle/Halladay: 17

Wang has 15. Interesting to see Beckett so low, then again Sabathia has pitched 40 more innings than Beckett. Now, we move on over to WPA, and to be more realistic wih Cy Young voting, I’ll only include starers:

Fausto Carmona: 4.14

Erik Bedard: 3.87

C.C. Sabathia: 3.49

Roy Halladay: 3.04

Josh Beckett 2.97

Given that Sabathia pitches deeper into games, as proof of his 230-some innings, you would think then that that would give Sabathia a higher WPA, but you would be wrong. Carmona is well ahead of Sabathia by .65 WPA. Personally, I think Sabathia deserves it – he has roughly the same ERA+ as every other contender, but the fact that he’s sustained that with much more innings than anyone else gives him the edge. Anyway, onwards.

3. Pythagorean Record – Another Bill James gizmo, this is possibly my favorite statistic, or at least the most fun. It basically shows how much luck a team has had in their season by calculating, using a simple formula, the record the team should have statistically. If the pythagorean record is lower than a team’s actual record by, say, five games, it suggests the team has won at least five games with the help of some luck, and vice versa. The Yankees have been unlucky all season, and only by their torrid post-all star stretch have they put the difference between their pythag record and their actual record at only four games. On the other end of the spectrum, the D’Backs have won an astounding eleven games to luck. Pythagorean record is also useful to see which teams are going to be for real down the stretch run or in the playoffs. Exhibit A: The Mariners, whose Pythagorean record is below .500 at 74-78. Ichiro should have waited until the end of the season before deciding to re-sign.

4. Zone Rating (Revised) – Way back in the 1870s, Henry Chadwick, the father of many baseball statistics, wrote this about fielding: “The best player in the nine is he who makes the most good plays in a match, not the one who commits the fewest errors.” In other words, as Alan Schwarz explains in his fantastic book The Numbers Game, “Chadwick preferred range to avoiding the occasional error.” Finally, more than a hundred years after Chadwick first came up with those words, a straight-forward statistic measures just that: Zone Rating. ZR basically measures the amount of balls in a fielder’s “zone” that he gets to. A much more in-depth description by BBTF can be fond here. Revised Zone Rating just basically counts balls hit out of a player’s zone seperately and likes double plays.

Gold Gloves aren’t always that easy to calculate, especially if you try to mix the stats up. For example, Omar Vizquel leads the NL with a .889 RZR, yet is fourth in fielding win shares, and a full 2.6 win shares below the league leader, Troy Tulowitzki. (Who, incidentally, deserves the GG.)

5. Hitting Charts – Ok, this one is really more data than formulaic statistics. Nevertheless, hit charts are both eye opening and fun to sift through. For example, take a look at this hitting chart for Curtis Granderson at Comerica. If you check “triples,” you can see he likes to pull the ball into the right field corner for a three-bagger, and the same with home runs. However, for a double he’ll hit it in the left and right-center field gaps more often than not. What does it mean? Exactly what it says it does, and that’s the beauty.

But you probably already know all of that.

In other news: GOD HELP US ALL.

Next best thing to his autograph?

Also, check out this great article by “non-prospect” Dirk Heyhurst, it’s a must-read, along with his whole archive of articles. As TwentySeven would say, “good stuff.”



3 Comments so far
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Just as a point of interest, Curtis Granderson has actually hit most of his triples away from Comerica, despite Comerica being such a good triples park.

Comment by 27yankees

That’s pretty surprising, I didn’t know that – I wonder if that means that he’s prone to hit a lot of triples throughout his career, it’s not just an accidental product of Comerica. Obviously, unfortunately you can’t have a hit chart for all the stadiums and their varied dimensions, but I just had an idea: It would be cool if you had a list of Granderson’s hits, and say for example if you want to see all of his triples, you roll over the date of a game/triple, and the ballpark where he played that particular game comes up, instead of having to go around to every single stadium and seeing how many triples he’s hit manually, not even knowing if he’s ever hit a triple there… just a thought.

Comment by red

“The best player in the nine is he who makes the most food plays in a match.” Food plays, huh? Yeah, I just fixed that typo.

Comment by red

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